You have heard the rumors…..and so have I. Stories abound all around the Lexington area that a preliminary deal has been reached with Billy Donovan to become UK coach with a 5-7 year deal averaging between 3 and 3.5 million dollars. This news has been message board fodder for the last couple of days and tonight, the Cats Pause lended their two cents by putting the rumor on the front page of the site. The UK fan base is abuzz at the possibilities and excitement is raging at the possibility of a new era in Kentucky basketball.
But that raises the question, is it true? Simply put, regardless of the rumors, and even the Cats Pause story is a rumor, there still remains a question as to whether such a deal has been consumated. I have to say….call me cautiously skeptical. I think there is a VERY good chance that Billy Donovan becomes the next Kentucky coach. However I question whether the deal has been agreed upon at this team. Many are speculating that UK and Donovan’s agent came to a preliminary deal this weekend and are now simply waiting for the tournament to finish before announcing it. I am confident that meetings have taken place and I believe Donovan is seriously considering the job. But I am not ready to say it is a done deal at this time.
What is clear is that UK is actively looking into other candidates…..although that list may be getting smaller. Rick Pitino says he is out (he was never in), John Calipari just signed an extension with Memphis and Billy Gillespie may be the new coach at Arkansas. But UK has made moves to talk to Jay Wright, Gillespie and Tom Izzo….all of whom are not Donovan. That suggests to me that UK has Donovan as the number one choice, but is actively making a solid look at a second choice…..which tells me that the deal is not DONE.
Bottom line is this…..the likelihood of Donovan becoming UK’s next coach continues to increase. His players were quoted today as saying they couldnt believe he would leave and dismissing the stories. I expect that there will be MAJOR pressure on him to stay, even from some of the same guys now being quoted. However Donovan refuses to say no to his interest in Kentucky, including today on PTI when Tony Kornheiser put him on the spot. Billy will listen to UK…..and I think the chances are high he becomes the next UK coach. I have spoken to a few people who have said to me today that the deal with Donovan is all done but the signing…..and maybe they are right. But the signing is still a MAJOR obstacle, especially with the intense media scrutiny of the Final Four coming. It may be “all over but the shouting”…..but in this case, the shouting is still an important component.
One last point…..the Cats Pause story which is now on WLEX and WAVE can have negative ramifications. This story coming out means that Billy Donovan will be bombarded with questions leading up to the Final Four and at the game….this will be a distraction for the team and could be a negative in the recruitment of Billy. Just something to think about…..